Welcome to Author Spotlight! Each week will feature a different author. We’ll get the scoop behind their writing life and dish a little. The authors will also be giving away a copy of their latest books. FUN.

Last week’s guest was Jill Eileen Smith and the winner of Jill’s book is Karen K! Congrats Karen – my assistant Amy will contact you for your mailing address.

This week we welcome Amy Clipston. To win a copy of Amy’s latest release, A Promise of Hope, leave a comment on this post!

Share a little bit about yourself. Married with kids? Empty nester? Do you work full-time and write when you can squeeze it in?

I live with my husband, two sons, mom, and three spoiled-rotten cats. Our house is often total chaos with loud TVs blaring cartoons, guitar riffs shaking the walls in my older son’s room, tools whirling my husband’s garage, and cats squealing and hissing while fighting.  However, I wouldn’t want it any other way!

Since my husband is on dialysis and awaiting a second kidney transplant, I work full-time as Human Resources and Benefits Specialist during the day and stay up late at night clicking the keys on my Macbook while writing Christian fiction for Zondervan. 

And share something about your writing. What’s your genre(s), your areas of interest…

I currently have the Kauffman Amish Bakery Series available with Zondervan and it is about an Amish family in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Book #1, A Gift of Grace, debuted in 2009, and A Promise of Hope, Book #2, came out in May 2010. Two more books will be out this year, and more in the future. I also have a non-Amish young adult book coming out next year. I’m fascinated with the Amish culture and enjoy researching it and writing books about Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

How did you get started writing? Did you have a dream of being a published author? 

As a child and young adult, I wrote for fun. I remember penning my first story in elementary school. Writing was something I did as a way to cope with stress and also escape to my own little world. However, I didn’t consider becoming an author or pursuing a writing career until I accidentally found Chesapeake Romance Writers, a Romance Writers of America chapter, in 2001. After going to a meeting, I realized that writing was a passion I wanted to pursue as a possible career.  Thanks to my friends at CRW, I learned how to polish my work and find an agent.

After you started writing seriously–how long was it before you were published?

I signed with my agent in 2005, and I sold my first Amish books in December of 2007.

Aside from a cup of good, strong coffee, what helps you get all of your “brain cylinders” firing so you can write well? Do you have any favorite places and routines when you write? How many hours a day do you spend writing?

I like to curl up on my bed or on the sofa in the den to write. I’m not a coffee drinker, but I’m addicted to Diet Coke, which I drink often, especially while writing.  I often crave popcorn along with the Diet Coke when I’m really in the writing “zone.” I also have this odd habit of tuning the television on one of my favorite channels without the sound. While the noise of the TV would distract me, the picture keeps me company.  Strange, I know!

I can’t give you a daily count of how many hours I write; it depends on the project and how close I am to my deadline. Some weeknights I’ll write from 8 p.m. until approximately midnight. On weekends, I sneak in as many hours as I can, sometimes writing all day long and into the night. 

What has been the biggest help to you in the journey to publication? Writers’ conferences? Writing groups? Your mom as your first draft reader?

My friends at CRW steered me toward the path to publication.  I learned so much from generous writers who took the time to critique for me.  Currently, have two amazing critique partners who let me bounce ideas off them, and they read my drafts.  My mom also reads my drafts and gives me ideas when I’m plotting my stories.  I owe a huge amount of my success to my family, especially my mom and my hubby, who have cheered me along the way and kicked me in the butt when I wanted to give up my dream of being a published author.

Is the “writer’s life” what you thought it would be?

That’s a tough question. I always imagined that being a writer would be chaotic, but I don’t think I knew quite how crazy busy it would be. At times, balancing my day time job, family, writing deadlines, and promotion obligations is very challenging. However, I’m very, very thankful to my mother who helps me keep up the house and care for the boys when I’m drowning in deadlines.  Since my husband is ill, I would have a difficult time managing the demands of my two jobs without her. My family is very thankful for all she does for us.

What are your biggest distractions?

I’m easily distracted by the television and the Internet.  Sometimes I get sidelined by a good chick flick or Facebook!

What was one of the best moments in your career and what was one of the worst?

I can’t say I’ve had any bad moments since I’ve been published.  The best have been holding my novels in my hands, speaking to my sons’ schools, and having my boys tell me that the books are “cool.”

What do you least like about being a writer? Most like?

The best part of being a writer is having a reader email me and tell me that my books have touched his/her heart. A very special person shared that she is reading my books to an ill relative, and the books have comforted her relative. Her story brought tears to my eyes and reminded me that God has given me a very important task of sharing His Word through my writing. I often pray that He’ll use me to bring others closer to Him.

What is the role and importance of an agent?

An agent has a very important role in a writer’s career.  Agents are responsible for finding a suitable publisher for a writer’s work. A good agent knows the publishing market, meaning he/she knows what books are selling and what certain publishing houses are seeking. Agents can identify good writing and provide guidance on what an author needs to fix in a book before it can be sent out to publishing houses.  Agents give authors credibility by sending books out to publisher with his/her endorsement. By having an agent, your chances are much greater of getting through the proverbial publishing “slush pile” and having your book read by an editor.

Agents also give their guidance on contracts, royalties, and all of the legal elements of publishing.  By having an agent, an author can concentrate on writing the best book possible while the agent can worry about selling the book.

What advice would you give to new writers?

I would tell new writers to join a writers group, whether it is affiliated with your local library, a national organization (such as Romance Writers of America or American Christian Fiction Writers), or an informal group of friends. Join a critique group and get some honest feedback on what your strengths are and also how you can improve your writing.

Keep writing and keep reading your favorite books. You’ll continue to learn and grow as a writer by studying the craft and revising your work.

No matter what, believe in yourself and believe in your dream of holding your book in your hand! If you’ve been rejected by an agent or editor, don’t even give up. I received plenty of rejection letters and I wanted to give up many times. I’m thankful for my family and my friends who told me to stop whining and keep trying.

Pretend I’m a customer at a bookstore looking for a good book. Give me a one or two sentence promo to convince me to buy your book.

A Gift of Grace (Book #1):

When Rebecca Kauffman’s older sister, who left the Amish community when she was a teenager, dies in an automobile accident, Rebecca is left custody of her two modern non-Amish teenage nieces, Jessica and Lindsay. Will she be able to reconcile the two worlds in her home—or will the clash of cultures tear her world, including her marriage, apart?

A Promise of Hope (Book #2):

In the second book in the Kauffman Amish Bakery series, a widow discovers her deceased husband had disturbing secrets. As she tries to come to grips with the past, she considers a loveless marriage to ensure stability for her young family–with her faith in God hanging in the balance.

A Plain & Simple Christmas:

When Anna Mae McDonough left her Amish community four years ago to marry David, an Englisher, her family shunned her. Now eight months pregnant with their first child, she longs to return home for Christmas. But when she arrives, she doesn’t receive the welcome she expects.

What’s on the book horizon for you?

More books are coming with my Kauffman Amish Bakery Series. A Plain & Simple Christmas will be out in September, followed by A Place of Peace (Book #3) in December.  Another Christmas book and Book #4 will be out in 2011. A non-Amish young adult book will also be available in 2011.

Last question, how can readers find you and your books?

You can find me on the web at www.amyclipston.com or on Facebook. My books are available through both mainstream and Christian bookstores, either on-line or in the store.

Thank you for having me on your blog!

Thank you for sharing your writing life with my bleaders, Amy! (blog + readers = bleaders)

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